When Pokémon Black and White were released, they featured over 150 new “pocket monsters,” marking the first installment since the game’s inception to introduce so many. The response from the general public, from the Pokémon fans of yore, was typical: “An electric zebra? A garbage-bag monster? A candle that evolves into a chandelier?” These Pokémon, like those introduced in every iteration of the series after Red and Blue, were perceived as an affront to the initial genius of the game, an insult to childhood memories of Pikachu, Charizard, Mewtwo.
Yet there is never any mention of the downright silly monsters among the originals, or of the painfully bland. It doesn’t strike anyone as odd that one of the most beloved creatures, held up as proof of the game’s lost creativity, was named by combining the words turtle and squirt.
The easy answer is that Pokémon were more impressive to our ten-year-old selves. But I’d like to think it’s more complex than that. In later years, with the game’s decline in coolness, plus our evolving interest in the opposite sex, it was probably simpler to insist there was something wrong with the monsters rather than to admit there had been some irrevocable change inside of us.
For me, Pokémon remains an entertaining game that satisfies my love of collecting things. I always look forward to the revelation of new monsters, to finding a rare one rustling the tall grass. But for these scores of fans who only pay attention long enough to disparage the new monsters, to reminisce about old favorites, there is no monster original enough to impress, for they are not scouring the pixelated caves and oceans for new additions to their team. They are searching for a feeling, long vanished, that no amount of Master Balls can capture.